Following Tuesday morning’s surprise launch of an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) over Japan, North Korea has defended the move, saying it was a “tough counter-measure” justified by provocative US actions.
North Korean Ambassador Han Tae Song insisted the US is “driving the situation” with its wargames and threats, as well as the deployment of “huge strategic assets” into South Korea. North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un was even more frank about the matter.
Kim presented the launch as a “meaningful prelude to containing Guam,” a reference to the US island that hosts the warplanes the US would be expected to use in any attack on North Korea. The latest missile fire appears to demonstrate a capability to strike Guam with such IRBMs if the US made good on threats to attack.
Given this, the launch over Japan might be even more impactful than the threatened North Korean launch of several missiles into the waters around Guam, a plan that is on hold, according to North Korean officials.
After weeks of relative calm, North Korea has carried out multiple test launches in the past few days, but it is the launch over Japan which is unprecedented, a testament to the nation’s confidence that they can fire a missile over the island nation without fear of it failing, crashing into the island, and starting a massive war.
The missile’s effective flight also underscores that North Korea’s missile program has reached the point where it needs to be considered a viable part of the nation’s deterrent arsenal, when combined with claims of nuclear warhead miniaturization, the missile means North Korea can conduct nuclear strikes in the region in the event a war starts escalating out of control.